By Mary Anderson and Will Parry
A standing-room crowd of several hundred packed a forum at the Mercer Island Community Center October 1 to discuss Washington State’s readiness –or lack of it — to meet the expanding health and social service needs of its elderly thousands.
Nineteen candidates for the state house and senate were on hand to interact with their constituents.
An informal show of hands in the audience identified health care and funding state services as the top two concerns, followed by the provision of long-term services and supports; protections for vulnerable adults; financial security; housing; and transportation.
These aging and funding issues are certain to be prominent in the 2013 legislative session. The Caring Across Generations campaign, of which PSARA is a part, is sure to play an active role. The campaign is calling for the creation nationally of two million new caregiving jobs – doubling the present workforce – with strengthened wages, hours and safety provisions and with training and certification to ensure skill and lend dignity to the job.
At the Mercer Island forum, Jessie Eller, Aging and Disability Services director; Ingrid McDonald, AARP advocacy director; Jerry Reilly, chair of the Elder Care Alliance; and Corie Borish, caregiver for her husband, who has Alzheimer’s, took part in a panel discussion of the state’s aging readiness.
Borish brought the issue alive, describing the care needs of her husband as his condition deteriorated, requiring four-hour daily care at first, increasing ultimately to a need for 24-hour care.
Two issues indirectly related to the theme of the forum were part of the discussion. Representatives Bob Hasegawa and Gerry Pollet addressed the need for the creation of a state investment trust (state bank) to provide long-term fiscal stability for the state.
Also part of the discussion was the need for special committees on aging in both houses of the legislature. At present, aging issues are parceled out to many committees, preventing a focus on the special needs of the state’s elderly thousands.